"We couldn't escape the feeling that we had a daughter in China."
My husband and I married very young, right out of high school, and had two biological children. But we couldn't escape the feeling that we had a daughter in China. We adopted Marissa from a Chinese orphanage when she was 10 months old. She is such a gift.
Marissa's sensory issues were immediate. We believe they were due to the fact that she had been laying in a crib for 10 months without interaction with others and because of the neglect that comes with institutional living. She had a knot on the back of her head about an inch-and-a-half deep from just laying in bed on her back. Many of her sensory issues involved food, and although I was an experienced mom and I read a lot in advance, I don't think you can ever be fully prepared for this kind of situation.
We got in touch with Infant and Toddler Services of Johnson County, and they connected us with Parents as Teachers. We had a wonderful parent educator who taught all three of us baby sign language and that really helped Marissa. Of course, she had only heard Chinese in the womb and for the first 10 months of her life so she was very frustrated when she couldn't communicate with us. It was so neat to watch her blossom as soon as her frustrations eased.
But it was our very first Parents as Teachers play group that was a turning point for Marissa. She was 2 years old, and when we walked into the room Marissa was immediately drawn to the easel and paint. She began painting that day at Parents as Teachers and she hasn't stopped since. By age 5, Marissa was putting things on canvas and actually has a gallery of shows of her work. She donates part of the proceeds from her art to the Chinese orphanage where she lived the first months of her life.
Parents as Teachers filled a big gap for us; they were another set of eyes. I really credit Parents as Teachers for helping us connect with Marissa and helping Marissa connect with art. She became a totally different girl--lively and creative. That gift of creativity is part of who she is.